Defoe delights Sunderland and defines derby with sensational strike
The Stadium of Light was euphoric as Sunderland completed a derby double over north east rivals Newcastle United, their record fifth in a row and, more importantly, clinched a crucial three points in their bid for Premier League survival.
It was Winter window recruit Jermain Defoe who made the difference in this hard-fought 1-0 win just before the break, and the Black Cats dug their claws in to secure a first win in eight, and a first scalp, under new coach Dick Advocaat.
The Tyne-Wear derby got off to a fierce start, with Sunderland winning balls and battles all over the pitch. Midfield commander Lee Cattermole’s return certainly helped inspire spirit, and the supporters responded in kind.
Jonas Gutierrez made his first start since returning from serious illness, acquitting himself superbly. Unfortunately for the Argentine, he was part of a midfield trio also containing Yoann Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko, meaning the Magpies had no true midfield shield to protect their defence.
Adovcaat’s decision to deploy three strikers up front meant the Mackems were always a threat on the counter, cutting through their rivals with ease on occasion but, unlike last time out against West Ham United, the finishing was top draw.
Early in the first half, Defoe was put through on goal by strike partner Steven Fletcher, but fluffed his lines with a hesitant and heavy touch. The former England international soon made amends, however, with a world class strike that was certainly worthy of being a match winner.
Just a minute into extra-time before the break, Defoe lashed home what may be looked back upon as the best goal of his career. Sunderland stopper Costel Pantilimon picked out Fletcher perfectly with a long punt up field, and the Scotland international subsequently headed on to Defoe, who unleashed a perfectly struck volley into the top right hand corner, past a helpless Tim Krul.
Emotional Defoe, invigorated by his superb strike, continued to pose problems in the second half, and there was palpable excitement every time the frontman was on the ball. If not for further hesitancy from fellow forwards Fletcher and Connor Wickham, Defoe may also have had a few assists from this derby duel.
Wickham in particular once again impressed with his efforts, though it was not to be his day in front of net, and flying Dutchman Patrick van Aanholt also continues to excel as a flying full back under compatriot Advocaat.
As for visiting Newcastle, John Carver’s side were noticeably toothless up top, and the absence of poacher Papiss Cisse was notable. Ayoze Perez cut an isolated and frustrated figure in attack, and also skied his own attempt at a volley as the midtable Magpies piled on late pressure.
Keeper Krul made a vital stop from a Santiago Vergini header to keep his club in the clash, while academy graduate Sammy Ameobi was strong and quick on the ball, but had little end product to show, summing up Newcastle’s day.
Sunderland will no doubt be celebrating into the night but, although the Black Cats have now climbed three points clear of the trap door, they will need to apply the passion from this game to next opponents Crystal Palace if they are to mount a credible bid for survival.